State mulls school,
housing for Kakaako

A Daewoo unit has let lapse
an option to develop the Pohukaina site

Star-Bulletin staff

The state wants to go out for development proposals to build a school, and possibly affordable housing, at the old Pohukaina Elementary School site in Kakaako.

The state Hawaii Community Development Authority's staff is recommending that the agency's board approve spending $100,000 for a feasibility study. The HCDA will consider the proposal tomorrow afternoon.

The old Pohukaina school at Halekauwila and Coral streets was torn down and one building on the property is being used by the state library system as a warehouse and office.

"We've always been concerned with the need for a school on the site," said Jan Yokota, director of the state authority. "It's such a valuable piece of land that we also want to consider the possibility of housing and fix up the park (Mother Waldron Park next to the school) at the same time."

Daewoo Hawaii Corp., a local unit of the large Korean construction company, had an option to develop housing on the school site but that lapsed. That project could have involved 600 units, but the state doesn't want anything that large, said Alex Achimore, the HCDA director of planning and development.

"We want to look at the air rights over the school and see if anything is possible," he said. "The main thing is to get the school going again."

Yokota said that children in Kakaako now attend the Royal and Kaahumanu elementary schools, which are both crowded. The state Department of Education has reminded HCDA it needs to develop a school soon.

Yokota said that the authority wants to get development concepts for a charette -- a design problem-solving session -- and also involve the community in the plans. Other state agencies will be involved in the planning. HCDA will coordinate, she said.

Meanwhile, the HCDA also wants to reconvey 80 acres at Heeia to Bishop Estate. The land was part of a 1991 swap involving Kakaako property.

The state Housing Finance and Development Corp. had the option to develop housing but it lapsed a year and a half ago, Yokota said. The state did not spend money to hold the option.

Bishop Estate has no immediate plans to develop there, said spokesman Kekoa Paulsen.

The 1991 swap involved Heeia lands valued at more than $25 million, and included 165 acres of wetlands. Bishop Estate also conveyed to the state 90,724 square feet of land leased to Honolulu Ford through fall 1994. That land, valued at $29.8 million, was designated for use as the entrance to the Kakaako waterfront park.

In return, the state gave the Bishop Estate 137,547 square feet of land in Kakaako occupied by two state agencies and valued at $43.1 million. The state also agreed to waive $11.7 million in public facility fees that the Bishop Estate would have to pay to develop its Kakaako lands.

The land swap was praised at the time as a way to save the Heeia wetlands from development.

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